Having the good fortune to live and ride in Seattle near good local bike shops has its blessings. I stopped in FreeRange Cycles on Tuesday and tried out a couple of new rides that sport a low trail geometry with a bent towards the randonneuring crowd (me). Both are a bit of a departure for me in that they are TIG welded steel frames.
The Soma Grand Randonneur was recently shipped, and is a very compelling deal. It is a $500 frame/fork combo that was designed by Mike Kone of Boulder Bicycle and Rene Herse fame. Note: Soma is doing some great combo design deals lately. First Grant Petersen‘s design on the San Marcos, and now a low-trail guru’s take on a commodity frame. You’d be hard pressed to not want both!
The bike I rode is a 55cm (small for me) with a large porteur rack on the front. Good to add some weight and see how it feels with a bit of front load. In my short ride, I felt immediately at home on the bike, and really felt some of the benefits of the different front-end geometry. It was quick handling, but forgiving – not twitchy. As I slowed to a stop, I noticed there was none of the flopping I have on my higher trail bikes if I let go of the handlebars. OK – that’s kind of nice. But the thing I liked more is that on a slow climb, I didn’t have the bars slightly twisting back and forth with my pedal strokes. It tracked well at low speeds. Hmmm – I may like this sort of thing.
On turns, at medium and higher speeds, there was no uncertainty of where I was going. Perhaps it didn’t feel like it was “on rails” like my Rivendells, but there was no bad effects I could ascertain. As for riding no-handed, it was about like my Miyata. Not great, but doable, and I wonder if it’s not due to the high saddle, low bars on this slightly too small frame for me.
On to the other bike – a new effort out of Canada. Cycles Toussaint is a Calgary company recently formed (2012) with two bike models. The version I rode was a demo Velo Routier sent to Kathleen at FreeRange to see if there is interest in the area. It’s a smart-looking white frame that was nicely built up in a traditional rando effort. It was slightly bigger at 57cm, so more in line with my size (I would probably go with a 59-60cm frame).
The only real difference in ride character this bike had in comparison with the Soma GR is that it tracked better for me no-handed. I won’t guess why other than perhaps the lack of a rack, the size being more in line with what I normally ride, or some build difference (tires?). Other than that, the bike handled much like the Soma. Deliberate, comfortable, and non-eventful. At $500, this bike is at the same price point, and it may come down to looks for you if you are in the market. To my eye, the Toussaint is prettier, and I liked the additional seat-stay peg so you can choose to mount a top-tube frame pump, or a smaller seat-stay pump. Overkill? Maybe, but I like pump-pegs – call me nuts…
- Low 30mm trail
- Integrated fender mounts
- Threaded 1″ steerer tube for threaded headset (yeah!)
- Room for fenders and 42mm tires
- Tubing – both are double-butted with .8/.5/.8 on small sizes, and .9/.6/.9 on larger frames
- Tube diameters – thinner seat-stays on the Toussaint
- Fork bend – prettier curve on the Toussaint
- Bottle bosses – 2 on Toussaint, 3 on Soma
- Front rack mounts – Soma has rack and low-rider mounts, Toussaint has rack mounts
- Sizes – Toussaint comes in 4 sizes – 51-60cm, Soma fits more riders with 6 sizes from 49.5-65cm
- Rear hub spacing – 130mm for Toussaint, and 132.5 for Soma